Magic: The Gathering’s Jurassic World Collection has some very cool Commander cards, and demand from Dinosaur fans have definitely been keeping the price on a lot of these cards quite high. I mean, Hunting Velociraptor is still selling for north of $40! But I think one of the cheapest cards in the set is also one of the best cards for Commander, and that’s Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists!
Why is this so good? It’s because discover is such a busted mechanic! Turns out, making cascade even better is incredibly powerful, as you still get to cast the spell you “cascade” into if you want to but, here’s the kicker, you can also just put it into your hand instead! Cascade had limitations in that you didn’t want to play too many reactive or situational cards in your deck that would make the mechanic’s resolution a miss, so putting cascade cards in your deck would either run a risk or stifle some of your deck building choices. Discover removes that problem, since you can simply put the exiled card in your hand if you don’t want to cast it. Sure, you don’t get to cast it for free if you choose to add it to your hand, but being able to make that choice means you can play all the cards you want in a deck with discover. This is important if your commander itself is providing that discover ability.
Another nice thing about Ellie and Alan is that you don’t have to play them in a Dinosaur deck. Even if the flavor makes them a solid choice for a Bant Dinosaur deck, there’s nothing on the card that says anything about Dinosaurs. The only thing you’ll want to have in a deck alongside Ellie and Alan is a fair number of creature cards that will eventually end up in your graveyard so you can discover with them.
Frankly, I’m shocked at how few decks that can run Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists in the 99 are doing so. According to EDHREC at the time of this writing, there are only 135 decks that have it—just 1% of the 18,461 decks that could run it. There are 230 decks there that have Ellie and Alan as the commander, which is a distant fourth out of five commanders from Jurassic World Collection (assuming Owen Grady, Raptor Trainer is partnering with Blue, Loyal Raptor). The only commander with fewer decks is Henry Wu, InGen Geneticist which is much more difficult to build around. The only thing I can figure is that too few Commander folks (outside of Dinosaur fans) have given Ellie and Alan a proper look. Let’s see if we can change that!
Creatures that Self-Sacrifice
Creatures that sacrifice for some cool effect are Commander staples, and there are tons of them available in the Bant color combination. It’s going to be easy to ensure one of these ends up in the graveyard by the time you’re ready to activate Ellie and Alan’s discover ability.
Sakura-Tribe Elder is fantastic as mana ramp that can also do chump-blocking duty first if needed. There are a bunch of creatures that sacrifice to destroy an enchantment or artifact, cards like Thrashing Brontodon, Cankerbloom, and Cathar Commando. Haywire Mite will actually exile a noncreature enchantment or artifact. Glen Elendra Archmage can counter a noncreature spell – twice – before ending up in the graveyard.
I really like creatures that can sacrifice to protect Ellie and Alan or another vital creature you want to keep on the battlefield, like Saffi Eriksdotter, or ones that can sacrifice to protect your whole team, like Boromir, Warden of the Tower, or Selfless Spirit.
Adric, Mathematical Genius from Doctor Who is a cool card to consider, since you can tap to copy Ellie and Alan’s activated ability, and if you want to squeeze out a big turn, you can spend more mana to sacrifice and do it one final time.
Then there’s Magus of the Mind, which is a call back to the storm sorcery Mind’s Desire. Since Ellie and Alan’s discover ability doesn’t use mana to activate, you could potentially cast one or two spells, activate Ellie and Alan to discover, cast another spell, then sacrifice Magus of the Mind to get a “storm” of two or three cards. Then Magus of the Mind is in the graveyard that will fuel Ellie and Alan’s next activation.
Sacrificing Creatures for Profit
You can also play cards like Birthing Pod and its creature version, Prime Speaker Vannifar to sacrifice a creature to tutor up another creature from your deck, upgrading your battlefield while providing fuel for Ellie and Alan. You can the same sort of thing as a one-shot with cards like Neoform or Natural Order. This might be a great deck to run Magus of the Order since you can sacrifice to it and another green creature to go find any green creature in your deck and put it on the battlefield, leaving two creatures in your graveyard to discover with.
Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus is a sneaky sacrifice engine, its activation cost can be zero mana if you want to pay four life, getting that indestructible counter makes it an excellent blocker, especially since it has sneaky reach.
You can even play Geralf, Visionary Stitcher without being a Zombie deck since you can just use it as a sacrifice engine to create potentially large Zombie tokens and Geralf will give them flying.
Top of Your Library
Knowing what’s on top of your library is a nice bit of information to have before you activate Ellie and Alan, and Bant offers a bunch of ways to do just that. If you own the classics – Sylvan Library, Scroll Rack, or Sensei’s Divining Top – you can certainly shove them in the list. I also really like creature-based cards like Augur or Autumn and The Reality Chip. Elven Chorus is surprisingly good in a creature-heavy deck, and if you’ve got enough mana ramp you might even consider One with the Multiverse, especially if you’re leaning towards having really big haymaker turns.
You might consider a small bit of self-mill in the deck to fuel Ellie and Alan activations. Altar of Dementia can sacrifice creatures to mill, ensuring at the very least one creature. I kind of like Zellix, Sanity Flayer since it’s reusable milling each turn and should generate a 1/1 Horror token for blocking duties. Perhaps as Ellie and Alan go digging in ancient sites, things take a Lovecraftian turn, and Horrors pop out!
Fauna Shaman and Survival of the Fittest can discard creature cards to the graveyard to fuel Ellie and Alan, while searching up just the right creature for the current game state. What’s really cool to think about are creatures with cycling, especially ones where the cycling has an additional ability attached to it Krosan Tusker or Shefet Monitor. Colossal Skyturtle has two different channel abilities that can prove quite useful depending on what you need and putting a creature in the graveyard for discovering.
I’m not sure if opponents will be too anxious to let you untap with Ellie and Alan but giving them haste when they enter the battlefield is likely worth it—that way you can count on getting value from them right away. Thousand-Year Elixir is a classic for this sort of thing, and even lets you untap and use it again. I also like creature-based enablers like Crashing Drawbridge or Surrak and Goreclaw.
Speaking of untapping Ellie and Alan for more activations in a turn, I’d strongly consider adding more of those effects to the deck. Vizier of Tumbling Sands is another cycling creature, and its cycling trigger lets you untap a permanent. Then there’s other creature-based effects like Saryth, the Viper’s Fang, Seeker of Skybreak and even Scryb Ranger.
Sting, the Glinting Dagger will untap Ellie and Alan during the beginning of each combat, but keep in mind that you can only use the ability as a sorcery so you can use it on opponents’ turns. Still, Sting grants haste too so I think it’s worth running.
If you’ve got an old Unlimited or Revised version of Instill Energy it might be worth some style points to run it in your deck. I mean, for one green mana it will give Ellie and Alan haste and let you untap them during your turn.
Since Ellie and Alan’s discover ability doesn’t cost any mana to use, chances are good in the later game you can cast a flurry of spells in a single turn so you could run a few storm cards and “go off” to some degree. I would definitely run Aeve, Progenitor Ooze since it’s a creature and making three or four or more copies of it is going to be a big turn for you.
I imagine most opponents will let you Rule 0 and play Crow Storm since generating a murder of 1/2 Bird crows isn’t going to be game-breaking, but it will be cool.
Most of the really good discover cards involve red, which is outside of Ellie and Alan’s Bant color identity, but we can find a few to add to the deck. Chimil, the Inner Sun is obviously quite good, but I’m also really high on Dinosaur Egg. There’s no defender on that card, so it’s pretty easy to evolve it to a 1/4, a 2/5, or even a 3/6 before it dies and lets you discover equal to its toughness.
I didn’t include Swashbuckler’s Whip here since its discover activation is so expensive, but part of me likes the idea of Alan being an Indiana Jones-type in his younger days.
What cards do you think I’ve overlooked for the deck? Which commanders from Jurassic World Collection are you building Commander decks around?
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